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Toronto’s Sake Sage

At a cozy, casual joint in Little Portugal, you’ll find Toronto’s closest thing to a Tokyo mom and pop shop. A simple wood and exposed brick interior, in addition to hanging lightbulbs and stools, underscores Imanishi Japanese Kitchen’s warm and simple approach to its food and drink. The menu offers standards and creative innovations from sashimi to monkfish liver pate, tai (Japanese red snapper) carpaccio to curry and ramen. A list of cocktails featuring sake, shochu, and plum wine, in addition to a variety of Japanese libations, are a must for any meal. Owner and chef Shori Imanishi answered our questions about the restaurant and Japanese cuisine.

Imanishi aims to offer contemporary Japanese home cooking. What does this mean to you? What’s especially exciting about Japanese home cooking right now?

Japanese home cooking is always changing, being influenced by cultures around the world. When thinking of new dishes, we don’t necessarily have to stay along the lines of traditional Japanese cooking. But we don’t stray too far.

You have a very cool cocktail menu. Can you describe how you came up with the list?

We created our list by using classic drinks as reference points, incorporating ingredients we believe are fit our style. We always use the best and freshest ingredients we can find.

How would you describe Toronto’s Japanese community and its cultural impact on the city?

The Japanese community is increasing incredibly fast. I’m not too sure about its impact on the city, but we seem to be fitting in just right.

Please describe some cool new dishes on the menu for this spring, or some ingredients and ideas you’ve been playing around with recently.

This spring we have a savory salad, replacing soy as the main ingredient for dressings with sake; cold ramen salads; and more dried fish.